Team Penske President Tim Cindric believes running inside the top 10 would be “a big accomplishment” for IndyCar Series newcomer Scott McLaughlin.
McLaughlin has one start in the series to his name, which came at the season-ending Grand Prix of St Petersburg in October.
The Kiwi fell shy of making it to the halfway mark in his competitive debut, spinning after a Safety Car restart on Lap 47 of 100.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, McLaughlin has completed several tests at Sebring International Circuit, Circuit of The Americas, Texas Motor Speedway, Barber Motorsport Park, and recently Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he completed his rookie orientation.
McLaughlin’s maiden season in the IndyCar Series will see him join the accomplished trio of Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Simon Pagenaud at Team Penske.
It marks the first time the North Carolina-based outfit has run a full-time four-car operation since 2017 when Helio Castroneves was among its ranks.
Cindric said the team is realistic about the first full season for the highly motivated McLaughlin, who arrives in the United States off the back of three Supercars Championship crowns.
“The biggest thing with Scott is keeping in perspective what our expectations are of him,” Cindric told indycar.com.
“Typically, we’ve had guys in the series that want to drive for us.
“With Scott, he is so competitive, but from our standpoint, if he can run in the top 10, that will be a big accomplishment for him in the first year.”
Team Penske recently shut down its two-car IMSA SportsCar Championship programme with Acura.
The team has absorbed some of its staff from that set-up across its four IndyCar Series entries for 2021.
McLaughlin will be engineered by Jonathan Diuguid, who was part of the IMSA operation.
Team Penske Managing Director Ron Ruzewski has high hopes for the New Zealander in his maiden season who has already caught the eye of some in the paddock.
“He already has the attention of the paddock from his resume,” said Ruzewski.
“I was working with Alexander Rossi at Sebring, and he said, ‘Man, he’s going to be fast.’ The competition acknowledges the guy is talented and he gets it.
“We would like to see him win races, but you have to be realistic. I want to see him progress every week and minimise mistakes. I would like to see him on the podium.
“Ultimately, you want to see him in the top eight in the championship. That would be a success. You hope for more, but you have to be realistic in expectations.
“If we can get him to progress every week, get on the podium at times and make the fast six (in qualifying), good things will happen. But he is also going to make mistakes.
“To expect him to be a championship contender the first year is a bit much to ask. I want to see him improve.”
McLaughlin is set to make his second IndyCar Series start on March 7 on the streets of St Petersburg.
He’ll also contest the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 30.